The government must extend National Health Service bursaries to medical students in all years if it is serious about recruiting more medics from poorer backgrounds, the Medical Students' Conference was told, writes Claire Sanders.
Medical students' chairwoman Jennie Ciechan told delegates at the conference, organised by the British Medical Association, that the government had to extend the bursaries available to final-year medical students. Ms Ciechan also called on the government to refund debts incurred because of the length of medical courses.
She said: "It is essential that the government takes action now to widen access to medical schools.
"Medicine is already dominated by students from middle-class backgrounds and there is a risk that the prospect of crippling debts will further discourage those from poorer families."
The proposed introduction of top-up fees in 2006 would worsen the medical recruitment crisis and adversely affect the participation of students from poor backgrounds, delegates said.
Medical students are already hard hit by debt. They face additional costs for expensive equipment and transport to clinical attachments, and the intensity of the course makes it difficult for them to take part-time jobs.